What does the fox say?

Rupert Och­sner on his 16-bit run-and-gun

Retro Gamer - - CONTENTS -

Rupert Och­sner stops by to chat about his 16-bit love let­ter to the run-and-gun genre, Fox N Forests

Fox N Forests has been on our radar since hit­ting its Kick­starter goal in 2016. Now, just un­der two years af­ter it was orig­i­nally an­nounced, Bonus Level En­ter­tain­ment is pre­par­ing to re­lease its love let­ter to the run-and-gun genre. We spoke to Rupert Och­sner to find out more.

Where did the con­cept for Fox N Forests orig­i­nate?

The day my brother and I im­ported the Su­per Fam­i­com from Ja­pan back in the Nineties was the day when cre­at­ing a 2D ac­tion plat­form game be­came my big­gest dream. Two con­sole gen­er­a­tions later, when play­ing Ikaruga on the Game­cube, the idea of switch­ing sea­sons emerged and fi­nally led to the cre­ation of our [game].

How long has it taken to make the game so far?

It al­most took three years from putting to­gether the first de­sign doc­u­ments to fin­ish­ing the game. Fox N Forests is a code­vel­op­ment be­tween Bonus Level En­ter­tain­ment and In­de­pen­dent Arts Soft­ware and the core team con­sists of five peo­ple plus free­lancers that worked to­gether for about two years. Aside from Ghosts ‘N Goblins, does your game pay trib­ute to other ti­tles?

It sure does! We ba­si­cally cre­ated our per­sonal 16-bit mas­ter­piece by com­bin­ing our own ideas with el­e­ments from games we love, such as Su­per Ghouls ‘N Ghosts, Won­der Boy In Mon­ster World, Ac­traiser 2, Cas­tle Of Illusion, Mega Man X and Zelda: A Link to the Past.

What’s been the hard­est thing to get right, from a game de­sign point of view?

The col­li­sions of the sprites, as well as get­ting the com­bi­na­tion of the ranged and close-up at­tacks right, as our hero Rick The Fox uses a ‘Magic Melee Cross­bow’ with a bay­o­net. Dur­ing the course of de­vel­op­ment, we tried many dif­fer­ent things such as an auto melee at­tack sim­i­lar to Metal Slug or hav­ing sep­a­rate but­tons, one for shoot­ing, one for slash­ing. Fi­nally, we went for a ded­i­cated at­tack but­ton that will let you shoot when stand­ing, kind of sim­i­lar to Su­per Ghouls ‘N Ghosts, and per­form a melee at­tack in com­bi­na­tion with press­ing up, down, jump­ing or dou­ble jump­ing.

What tech­ni­cal chal­lenges have you faced?

We were us­ing Unity in or­der to make de­vel­op­ing and later port­ing from PC (Win­dows, Linux, Mac) to PS4, Xbox One and Nin­tendo Switch as smooth as pos­si­ble and luck­ily didn’t face any ma­jor prob­lems thanks to our ex­pe­ri­enced, hard­work­ing team.

How does the chang­ing of sea­sons work?

Switch­ing sea­sons is the core fea­ture of Fox N Forests and a lot of think­ing and de­sign work went into it. For ex­am­ple, we de­cided that Rick The Fox can switch be­tween two pre­de­fined sea­sons per level, in or­der to main­tain a quick and fluid game­play – an A/B switch me­chanic is more in­tu­itive than an A/B/C/D one. Rick can switch seam­lessly and on the fly be­tween two sea­sons that vary per level by press­ing one of the lower shoul­der but­tons. How­ever, stay­ing in the al­ter­nate sea­son costs mana, so watch your mana bar, which can be re­filled via col­lect­ing pick-ups. Just in case, it also re­fills au­to­mat­i­cally and of course the mana bar can be up­graded. So, in level 1:1 ‘Re­volv­ing River’

Rick can switch be­tween spring and win­ter, freez­ing the river and turn­ing it into ice to walk on. In a later shoot-’em-up level, ‘Tricky Tree­tops’, where Rick is riding on his side­kick Patty The Par­tridge, the for­est is on fire and switch­ing sea­sons re­sults in rain com­ing up, dis­tin­guish­ing nasty flames. How­ever, harm­less clouds will now turn into elec­tri­fy­ing thun­der en­e­mies that must not be touched. Then we have fog van­ish­ing in win­ter, giant leaves spawn­ing in fall or bees that can only be passed when sleep­ing in win­ter and so on.

What led you to go­ing with a 16-bit art style?

As men­tioned ear­lier, it was al­ways our dream to cre­ate a 16-bit style game. We went for a nos­tal­gic Su­per Nin­tendo look and feel as it re­minds us of the good old days when we were play­ing games all day and we com­bined this with mod­ern game de­sign. Ba­si­cally, what Shovel Knight did with 8-bit pre­sen­ta­tion we are do­ing with 16-bit. How did you feel about the game pass­ing its Kick­starter?

This was a im­por­tant step for us and we were su­per happy that all the hard work has paid off as well as re­ceiv­ing such great feed­back for our vi­sion.

One of the pledges was to help de­sign a level. How has that worked out?

We of­fered the op­por­tu­nity to ei­ther fully con­structed a level your­self in our level edi­tor, or to de­liver ideas and sketches for us to im­ple­ment. The process was han­dled via calls be­tween these back­ers and our de­sign­ers and re­sulted in some ex­cit­ing, fresh ideas.

Why do you think retro-styled games like Fox N Forests do so well on Kick­starter?

Retro-style games usu­ally hit a nos­tal­gic nerve within older gamers, [and are] the same kind of peo­ple who are usu­ally will­ing, or in the po­si­tion to take a small fi­nan­cial risk in or­der to help a project get on its feet. We’d like to of­fer a big thank you to all of our back­ers for their sup­port at this point. Per­son­ally, I am very happy with how the whole thing has turned out and that play­ing Fox N Forests truly feels like the 16-bit games we all love and re­mem­ber!

We ba­si­cally cre­ated our per­sonal 16-bit mas­ter­piece Rupert Och­sner

[PC] Fox N Forests will be head­ing to ev­ery­thing from PC to Switch. Ex­pect a re­view in a later is­sue.

[PC] Switch­ing be­tween sea­sons is an im­por­tant me­chanic and lets you solve cer­tain puz­zles and dis­cover hid­den se­crets.

jump­ing skills to fel­low and has sim­i­lar[PC] Rick is a nim­ble ‘N Ghosts. Arthur in Su­per Ghouls

[PC] There are plenty of items hid­den away in Fox N Forests, just like the plat­form­ers of old.

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